tv Democracy Now LINKTV February 20, 2012 3:00pm-4:00pm PST
>> in a black history month special, we spend the hour with legendary pianist randy weston. he has been a pioneering jazz musician incorporating the hair could of africa. we will speak about his collaboration with langston hughes, and we will talk but his friendship with afrobeat artist fela kuti. >> it has the rhythm from southern part of africa. democracy now! is looking for feedback from people who appreciate the closed captioning. email your comments to email@example.com or mail them to democracy now! p.o. box 693, new york, ny 10013. from pacifica, this is democracy now! this is democracy now!, democracynow.org, the war and peace report. i want the melody to represent africa. >> randy weston for the hour.
all that and more coming up. from pacifica, this is democracy now! i'm amy goodman. "the the financial times" is announcing taxpayers will subsidize part of the summit owed by five leading banks to resolve claims over faulty foreclosures and mortgage practices. a clause in the provisional agreement allows banks to count future loan modifications made under a previous foreclosure initiative towards their restructuring obligations for the new settlement. neil brodsky said this means that mortgage settlement means it is essentially another bailout for the banks. euro zone finance ministers are expected to approve a second bailout worth $171 billion for greece today. thousands took to the streets to protest against austerity measures.
>> they are insisting on a policy is that is choking us, that is driving us to catastrophe. they have to understand, in real life, this policy is disastrous for life and the economy. that is why we continue to protest. >> in related news, hundreds of thousands of workers protested in spain against the government 's latest austerity measures, making it easier to slash pay and lay off workers. israel was urged not to attack iran. martin dempsey of the u.s. chiefs of staff said an israeli attack on iran would have grave consequences for the entire region. >> i think it would be premature to exclusively decide that the time for military action was
upon us. i think economic sanctions, international cooperation we have been able to gather is having to -- starting to have an effect. our preparedness, fundamentally, we have to be prepared. that includes being prepared defensively. >> his comments come as the obama administration and israel government engage in tense talks over iran. thomas donilon arrived in israel on saturday. james clapper will travel to israel later this week. on sunday, and the iran oil ministry announced it would be halting shipments to britain and france. syrian activists have called for a day of silence after some were fired on during a funeral.
here in the u.s., senators john mccain and lindsey graham called on the u.s. to begin arming syrian rebels in an effort to topple assad. among those detained was media benjamin of code pink. one man has refused to eat since december. doctors say he is at immediate risk for death. he can be heard yelling from his hospital room, saying the strike continues until there is dignity and freedom.
>> he is being held under administrative detention, which means israel can hold him without trial or charge. >> his health is addressing. his situation is getting worse, but his morale is strong and believes his situation will end with a victory. >> in new york police department monitored muslim college students across the northeast. in one case, the new york police department sent an undercover agent on a whitewater rafting trip where he recorded names and noted how many times they prayed. republican mitt romney's chairman paul the bu has stepped down after allegations he is
gay and once threatened to deport his ex-boyfriend to mexico. he is a sheriff in pinal county in arizona. in other news, rick santorum has come under criticism for questioning president obama's christian values. he accused the president of being motivated by a phony theology not motivated by the bible. >> it is not about you, your quality of life. it is about some phony ideal, theology. not a theology based on the bible. >> in campaign finance news, the supreme court has blocked a ban on spending. the montana supreme court ruled the case in citizens united did not apply to the state. in related news, sheldon adelson is reportedly ready to donate an
additional $10 million to a super pac supporting newt gingrich the family has already given the superpac $11 million. the center for political integrity said that it is the largest reported donation in campaign history. the coalition of environmental and watchdog groups have filed a lawsuit to block the license that regulators issued for the country's first new nuclear reactors in years. southern co. is attempting to build two reactors at the vogtle plant near the south carolina border. a moroccan-born man was born on friday -- arrested on friday for allegedly attempting to carry out a suicide bombing. the man was arrested. at the time, he was carrying what was believed to be an
explosive oregon. prison officials have confirmed a 27-year-old prisoner died while on a honegger strike. christian gomez died when he and 31 prisoners began refusing food to protest restrictions on access to health, good food, and legal services. in china, foxconn has announced plans to increase wages for many of its workers and reduce overtime hours at its factories. its labor practices have come under intense scrutiny in recent months. espn has fired one employee and suspended another for using both word and racist phrase in connection to the new york knicks guard jeremy lin. after losing friday night, espn
posted a story headlined "chink in the armor." lin is the first nba player of chinese descent. we spend an hour with randy weston today. for the past six decades, weston has been a pioneering jazz musician incorporating the vast rhythmic heritage of africa. randy weston's most famous compositions include little this, blues motivemoses, and tune, hi fly.
randy weston's 1960 recording was a landmark recording that celebrated the independence of africa. uhuru afrika, which began with a poem written by langston hughes, would later be banned by the south african apartheid regime. in 1961, randy weston visited africa for the first time as part of a delegation that also featured nina simone. the trip would transform his life and would lead him to move to africa. he was later named as a jazz master. now 85 years old, randy weston continues to tour the world. in 2002, he performed at the inauguration of the library in
egypt. he also played at the celebration of the 50th anniversary of senegal's's founding as an independent republic. in 2010, duke university published "african rhythms: the autobiography of randy weston." on saturday, randy weston will lead his african rhythms orchestra at a concert at the tribeca performing arts center to celebrate the harlem hell fighters. last week, i sat down with randy at the tribeca performing arts center, asking him to talk about his parents. >> my dad was born in panama. he lived seven years in cuba. then he came to brooklyn. the mother came from a small town in virginia.
they came together. i grew up in a powerful, spiritual area in brooklyn. you had to be in the black church every sunday. that was required. economically, everybody did not have money, but culturally, it was so wonderful. we had blues bands on the corner, calypso, big band. my dad gave me two things. he was very influential. he said, you were an african born in america, and therefore, you need to study the history of africa. >> you were an african born in america. >> yes, he said you should be clear about that. you are only going to get the history after slavery, he said.
i read about egypt, donna. my dad had maps on the wall of african kings and queens, and the books. in addition, he made sure i took piano lessons. i was 6 feet tall at 12 years old. in those days, i was a giant. my father made me take piano lessons. i wanted to play basketball, football. i intend keep the music. my mom gave me in the black church. the two of them always kept me spiritual. that is how i grew up. the whole neighborhood was full of wonderful people, great leaders, artists, a lot of inspiration. >> what role did marcus garvey
play, and especially for young people today, who was he? >> during that time, the 1930's, 1940's, he was a real giant. his theory, africa is our ancestral home. those of us that were taken away, we have to rebuild our motherland. all humanity comes out of africa anyhow, so he was ahead of his time. he had the biggest organization of african people even today. no computers, no airplanes. he travelled all through the states, he went to europe, and the caribbean. >> in the united negro improvement association. >> that is right. our history was taken away. your ancestors history is your
foundation. he gave us that, an important man. my father loved marcus garvey, so he would have books from him, j rogers, others. >> you started with costco music, but you did not like it too much? >> no, it did not swing. i had a wonderful music teacher. she would hit my hand with a ruler when i was making a mistake. i was always making mistakes. but she gave me that foundation. after three years, she told my father, forget it, your son will never play piano. i have her picture in the book. she gave me the foundation of women at the time, having dignity and class. >> but your father would not give up? >> no, he got me another
teacher. he taught me the classic tradition of piano and a few popular songs. that is how i started to learn the piano. >> you are playing music, and then world war ii. >> i was drafted in the army, spent three years in the army. even before then, we had small, local bands in brooklyn. we played everything from polkas, marriages, all sorts of things. there was a lot of jazz in musician -- in brooklyn. we had black musicians clubs at that time, you see. we could go to this club and see the older musicians. there would say, you play over
there, make sure you get $1. so we have the love and respect for the ancestors. >> who were you watching, listening to? >> count basie, louis armstrong, coleman hawkins. >> did you meet louis armstrong? >> yes, i shook his hand. i met him in the hotel. i shook his hand, but that was it. something i will never forget. >> count basie? >> i used to play opposite him in a trio. i love him because his class and his love of the blues. i finally met him at a festival in holland, of all places.
i used to play like count basie. when i saw him, i said, i want you to know how much i love you and how much you gave me on the piano. >> what about polonius month? >> the magic man. -- thelonious monk. coleman hawkins when back to the 1920's. i used to good to 52nd street all the time. you would go into these great clubs. all the masses of this music. i went one night to hear coleman hawkins. there was this guy playing piano. i did not understand what he was playing.
i can play more piano than this guy. i went back and then discovered the gene in some ofmonk, fell in love with his music, and then spent three years hanging out with him, taking him to brooklyn, to my father's house. my father had a restaurant at the time. we had the best jukebox in the world. everybody from duke ellington to nat king cole, sarah vaughn. musicians would come on my long and argue, who was better? culturally, it was an incredible period. i spent time listening to the royalty of our music. >> randy weston that, as we continue this black history month special.
and then later moved to massachusetts, a decision that changed his life. >> after we came back from the army, i came home, but there were drugs in the neighborhood. i had a friend who was a semiprofessional basketball player. he said, randy, come on up, take any job. it was full of music. the boston symphony was there over the summer. that is what i did. >> you were able to kick the habit totally up there? >> yes. i needed a change of atmosphere. i was very blessed. i met great people. lucas foster, leonard bernstein,
members of the symphony orchestra. by that time, they were encouraging me. when i was in the kitchen -- >> at the music inn. >> yes, i was hired as a cook. >> and the folks that ran the restaurant heard you playing late at night? >> yes, at both places i worked at. there was a man starting a series of lectures about african-american music. he had a global concept of
african culture. i met john lee hooker because of marcie stearns. i saw the connection. i understood more about the impact of african civilization on world soul of the position -- world civilization. >> what were you playing at the time, what inspired you? >> a great man that has been in it forgot about in our history. james reese. he was in alabama. he was a pianist, composer. at that time, everything was segregated. he formed the first black union. clefwas the 1950's, the
club. he had seven orchestras. one time, they played in carnegie hall. this was before jazz. that did not come until 1915. before that, it was just african music. in addition to that, and joined the u.s. army, became a lieutenant, got some more musicians, went to france, and the french had never heard this music before. during the war, the french soldiers and american soldiers were together. james reese europe played in 20 cities in europe.
>>, want to get to you moving to africa. but before that, langston hughes, talk about meeting him. how he inspired you and what you did together. >> again, marshall stearns, the professor. he brought langston hughes up to the birch beer. it was an automatic connection between us two. and i was young. why was cooking during the day and playing at night. i was not a professional musician. he knew my interest in african culture. in 1961, the first summit of african-americans going to africa was in nigeria. langston hughes was part of that moveme
when we did the freedom africans week, i asked, can you do something for me? africa was just getting its independence. seven countries, its independence at the time. i wanted to create music that celebrated the freedom. he wrote a freedom poem, wrote the words for a song called "african lady." our mothers, sisters, the women that all are around us. >> can you play a little? >> can you play a little? ♪
>> you mentioned a freedom poem of langston hughes. do you remember it? >> what we did was this. as a boy, almost always upset with movies. the image of african people in hollywood was very hard, the image. i was always upset with what they called african languages, as if african people did not have any language. i wanted to put the freedom poem into african language, so that people would realize the duty. -- beauty. >> africa, where the great, both
los? -- congo flows? >> i went to the united nations and asked, how can i just use one language? >> the consensus was to use swahili. there was one man there from tanzania. he was a scholar of swahili. he took langston hughes poem from english to swahili. his voice was so wonderful, we used him on the record of uhuru afrika. >> africa, where the great congo flows. where a new dawn breaks.
africa. a young nation awaits. africa. uhuru afrika. >> talk about the making of th uhuru afrika, one of your great albums. >> she had worked with dizzy gillespie. she played trombone. this was rare. >> the only woman i had heard who played trombone. she had this big sound. this had to be early 1950. we collaborated in 1958 for the
first time. when she came over to the bandstand, i said, i have to meet this lady. electricity between us. she moved to new york, originally from kansas city commack and like mary lou williams, was living in harlem. they knew each other, the two queens of music. i got together with her and we had the same feeling. you see, artistically, paul robeson said it best. an artist is responsible to fight for freedom. an artist is responsible to change society. not only do you have to be good at your craft, but you have to make a contribution to society. what better contribution than to the african people? there were put on the bottom of the human scale.
i wanted to do this suite, in four movements. the first movement was called reimbursed. the second was called african lady. the third was called bantu. we were trying to recognize the significance of african culture. we are wrong to celebrate, play music in fiji, tonga. melba had some great musicians and the orchestra. freddie hubbard, richie williams. jimmy cleveland, do is walker. -- julius walker.
>> 1960, you finish uhuru afrika. this was after rosa parks, after everything was happening in africa, the independence movements. you wanted this album produced, would you have trouble. >> yes, but at the idea -- at the time, there was an idea of separating us from our people. i had a great muslim father. my father always said, look back. what he meant was, my ancestors throwback to the great civilizations of egypt. we come from royalty. for me, it has always been that way of thinking. who is louis armstrong's
grandmother and grandfather? where did that music come from? i had to go to africa to understand where the music was created. our ancient ancestors knew that music came from the creator. it is a way to give people on earth some feeling. i got all that history, but it came from mom-and-pop. >> can you talk about african cookbook, and how you can about to write that album? >> i had heard african 6/8 rhythm.
that is how i created african cookbook. we had such a great saxophonist, we would say, cook book, cook. >> randy weston, a legendary pianist coming here on democracy now! -- , here on democracy now! ♪ this is democracy now!, democracynow.org, the war and peace report. we continue with randy weston. percent down on stage at the tribeca performing arts center. >> you go to africa in 1961. where did you go?
>> nigeria. there were 29 of us. the first pilgrimage to go home to the motherland. some of these people were geoffrey holder, myself, eight members of while hampton's band. this was with an organization called the american society of african culture. they used to bring african artists to new york. ethiopian painters, singers from nigeria. they already have the organization. we had two great dancers with us. nina simone was there. >> nina simone? >> yes.
we spent 10 wonderful days together to see the relationship of african-american nigerian culture. two jazz dancers on this side of the stage and others on the other side. these rhythms all came from africa. i would hang out at night at the clubs, and that is where i met bobby benson. he played incredible guitar, and he was also a drummer. i would be there every night and i heard these west african musicians. i also played with fela kuti before he played saxophone. what is more important, on the weekend, he would bring the traditional people from nigeria.
it was my first live contact with african traditional music. when you hear that music, you go to school. they do things with music that we cannot do. they capture the spirit of a continent itself. that music was swinging before man ever arrived. nature is in rhythm, the crocodiles, birds, everything. that is the foundation of world music. it was a wonderful trip. when we arrived at 11:00 at night, myself and a few others were the tallest of the group. there were about 50 african drummers, and we smell the air, and i said, my answers were taken away from africa for
slavery. how great that we can come back here. some of us kissed the ground because we knew that that was our ancestral home >. >> you come back home and then you decide to fight discrimination against african american musicians. talk about forming this organization. >> we had a saxophonist who also played piano. we had john handy. we had a three-day conference in harlem. we were the first ones to get anti-discrimination clauses in our contracts. you have to remember, at the time, there were separate unions.
james was the first one to organize in this way. the last one now is in buffalo, new york. it is called the last musicians colored club. we had a three-day conference. we had some women come to put our food. we had philip randolph. >> the organizer of the sleeping cars, the march on washington. this is at the same time? >> yes, same time. he spoke to us about labor conditions, what we could do to better our rights as musicians. it was hard to get gigs, racism was hard, as you know. john henry clarke had also told us our history as african people.
you are not going to get history from the school system. we formed the organization. we were frustrated musicians. i was not an organizer. we got together one year, we invited recording companies to try to help musicians. we were working in the clubs with terrible conditions, no dressing rooms. these giant musicians, no place to even changed their clothes. >> very different for white musicians? >> yes. >> right before you moved to africa, you're close friend langston hughes -- your close friend langston hughes dies. he requested that you perform at his funeral. what did you perform?
>> all blues. i had heard that he passed away and that i was wanted to play at his funeral. i knew that he'd love blues with a passion. we got to the funeral home, he was in the coffin. we were on this side, about 200 people were there. ralph bunche was there, lena horne, a bunch of people. i played one hour of blues for langston hughes. he was such an incredible person. the secretary had called me and said, make sure the musicians get human scale. -- union scale. he knew the importance of african-american music. he knew the spirituals and
blues were revolutionary music. without this music, we would not have survived anything. if it was not for that reason, we would have gone nowhere. those songs with billie holiday, duke ellington, they would lift our spirits. >> can you play a little of what you played that day? >> i played the blues. [laughter] ♪ ♪
>> randy weston. blues 4 langston hughes. 1967. langston hughes ties in may. before the end of the year, you had moved to africa. talk about that decision and where you went. >> marshall stearns was on the state department board. unfortunately, he died before i had a chance to thank him. i was on a tour with the state department of 14 countries in west and northern africa, including lebanon. we put together a great band. i took my son with me, who was 15. we had a wonderful tour.
i requested, which ever country we went to, i wanted to be in touch with the traditional music of country. it was a good test for me. you can write music about africa in new york, but the test is when you play it in the country itself. when i played music in africa, i would tell the people, this is your music. you may not recognize it because it came in contact with european languages and instruments, but it is your music. we had a lot of success in africa. not only was it a concert, but having people understand the impact of african rhythms and world music. whether it is in brazil, cuba, mississippi, brooklyn. if you do not have that african
polls, nothing is happening. >> you moved to morocco. why? >> morocco was the last country. i wanted to be closer to the traditional people. when you do a state department tour, you have to do a report of what you like, disliked. i spent one week working on this report. one month later after coming back to new york, and the moroccan people, i got a letter saying that they were crazy about me and wanted me to come back. they speak arabic, berber, french, spanish over there. but the power of music is the original language. i went back and stayed. that is when i discovered, the africans who were taken into slavery had to cross the sahara
desert. i discovered their music. that really enriched my life. >> talk about the debt now way people. >> during the invasion of the north, they were taken as slaves. they created powerful, spiritual music. i first met them in 1967. we have been together up until this day. when you hear this music, you hear the origin of blues, jazz, all at the same time. what has mother africa contributed to american culture? what have people brought with them? when people were taken away, they had no language, instruments, nothing. but we hear the traditional people and we realized, they used to be in africa in the
first place. and it is so diverse because the continent is diverse. if you go to the sahara, you have music of the sahara. africans created music based on the environment they lived in. i was in brooklyn, so i was influenced by the palladium, the black church, blues. >> can you play "blue moses" a little bit? >> of course. ♪ ♪
quote the african poet moussa. >> yes, he said, music is the voice of god, this music. music is our first language. we think french, english, arabic is our language. there was a time where we did not have language. we would listen to the language of the birds, the wind, the sound of thunder. he said, when you have ordinary music, you will have ordinary times. i will never forget that. when you have creative music, you have creative times.
you cannot see music, touch music, it is the king of the arts. music is everywhere, but we tend to take it for granted. imagine our planet without music. it would be dead. everyone has music. >> back in nigeria, music is also a means of political expression. you saw fela kuti perform two weeks before the nigerian military raided the shrine and his home, through his mother out the window. -- threw his mother out the window. can you tell me what it was like to see him perform? >> he was the most courageous position i have ever seen in my life. he wanted africa to be free. africa is so rich -- that is why
everybody has taken something. everything is there. symbolically, spiritually, the president of africa. what he wanted was african unity. sometimes, the powers that be, do not like that freedom. he was fearless. all i will never forget the last time i saw him. i was so proud of him. he demonstrated, just playing your instrument is not enough. you have this talent for a reason. you need to serve your community, humanity. one way or another. that is what fela, paul, all these people were like.